Where: Inner London
11 September 2002 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Pentabus theatreís production of Julian Garnerís new play Silent Engine opened at the Ludlow assembly rooms in July and went on to wow audiences and critics alike at the Edinburgh Festival where it won the Fringe First award. Itís with this impressive reputation that it starts its nationwide tour at the Arcola theatre, but is it really worth motoring all the way to Dalston for?
We meet married couple Anna and Bill on a cliff above a remote beach in Devon, the site of a terrible catastrophe at the turn of the century, when a village was washed into the sea. As the couple interact we become painfully aware of the breakdown in communications between them since the death of their only daughter. Poor brow-beaten Bill canít get a word in with his melodramatic wife, Anna. She is a loathsome drama queen who romanticizes every tragic aspect of her own and other-peoples lives reveling in the idea of families drowning at the mercy of the ocean.
The pretext is very dramatic and
Garner keeps the tension high with revelation after revelation. But the structure feels formulaic and the dialogue is unoriginal. Garnerís characterization of Bill is simple and neat but Anna is a clichťd mess. This isnít helped by Cathy Owenís performance, her tears followed by laughter ploy is overused and becomes extremely tiring. With Robin Pirongsís unadventurous and monotonous Bill the two have so little chemistry you do not for one second believe in any of their overplayed exchanges. Meanwhile, director Theresa Heskins does very little to bring out important moments in the production so it lacks any kind of shape or climax, it just feels flat.
Kate Bunce has designed a striking and simple set with a seeming white monolith at the center overshadowing the black empty studio. This teamed with Barney Philbrickís subtle yet eerie sea-scape sound design create a haunting and atmospheric world, if only the actors had the presence to inhabit it fully.
- Hannah Khalil
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